Birth Injuries Versus Birth Defects

Birth Injury

The prospect of a baby suffering an injury at birth is something no parent wants to think about, but unfortunately, it happens to approximately 28,000 infants and their families every year. Additionally, the CDC reports that about 120,000 babies—or one out of every 33 born—suffer from birth defects each year.

The difference between these two types of conditions may seem semantic, but they are unique terms that reference different ways in which physical deformities, development disorders, and other forms of harm may manifest in an infant child. In short, birth defects develop before a child is born, whereas birth injuries occur during the birthing process. Depending on the circumstances, either could be caused by a doctor’s malpractice.

How Malpractice Can Cause Birth Injuries

By definition, a birth injury occurs while a mother is in labor or while she is actively giving birth. Depending on the situation, such an injury might affect the mother, her child, or in some cases both at the same time.

Birth injuries most typically stem from the misuse of medical tools by prenatal and neonatal healthcare providers. When used correctly, forceps and venthouses could provide crucial assistance with extricating a baby safely from their mother’s womb. However, if used incorrectly, these tools might put too much pressure on a baby’s head, skeleton, and/or internal organs, potentially causing malformation and lead to a variety of short-term and long-term complications.

Even if addressed immediately after they occur, birth injuries could cause a child to suffer lifelong development disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, and brachial palsy. In other cases, compression of the umbilical cord, lungs, or nervous system can cause hypoxia or jaundice, both of which may cause severe or even fatal harm to a newborn infant.

If these injuries occur because a doctor did not handle forceps with the reasonable care and skill that should be expected of a medical professional in their position, they may be civilly liable for any damages they caused.

Could Malpractice Result in Birth Defects?

Many birth defects are rooted in genetics, prenatal smoking and drinking, and other conditions like obesity that are beyond a doctor’s capacity to directly address or influence. These kinds of defects usually form in the first trimester of the development of a fetus and they may manifest as physical deformities, intellectual disabilities, problems with organ functionality, or a combination of all three.

While a doctor typically cannot be held liable for a birth defect that forms from natural risk factors, in certain situations medical malpractice can contribute to the development of a defect. In any case, where a doctor’s actions may lead to medical consequences, it may be critical for a prospective plaintiff to consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. To learn about your legal options, call today.